Good typography is invisible.
I have not been able to find the origin of this statement
but it is so true. Good graphic designers know how to use the right font and
the right style to convey their message. True, there are times when the message
requires a flare or stylish image but it is there to enhance the message, not
detract from it. That’s probably why most designers abhor Comic Sans and
Papyrus. These are examples of font design that generally don’t fit in 99% of
graphic designs… or in any typesetting venue for that matter.
I had an instructor in art school who also hated two other
things, type set vertically and simulated Chinese calligraphy type. The first
is so difficult to read and goes against every aspect of our culture of
reading. What I mean by this is that our culture defines how we read and what
we perceive as the correct way to set type. For instance, the type used on the
first printing presses is called Blackletter, very dark and heavy on the page.
Today we have a hard time reading it because it’s not what we are used to. In
the late 1400’s it was everywhere and that’s what people could read. A graphic
designer has to be aware of his time period and what is the norm for his
culture. Setting type vertically, although very common on café signs and such,
just goes against our normal expectations of how type should be. The way the
type is set becomes more important than the message. The Chinese and Japanese
characters are beautiful images created centuries ago and based on delicately
produced brush strokes. To take that elegance and force it into the shapes of
our letterforms is to do a disservice to the Asian characters and to insult
This all brings us back to the original statement: Good typography
is invisible. According to Gerard Unger: ” It is almost impossible to look
and read at the same time: they are different actions ” Therefore,
graphic designers, make your typography invisible so the words and messages can
communicate as intended.